[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Iliad unit. Story source: The Iliad retold by Alfred J. Church (1907).
The Ransoming of Hector (cont.)
(for audio, see previous page)
So he leapt into the chariot and took the reins. And when they came to the trench, where the sentinels were at their meal, Hermes caused a deep sleep to fall on them, and he opened the gate, and brought in the King with his treasures. And when they were at the tent of Achilles, the young man said: "I am Hermes, whom Father Zeus sent to be your guide. Go in and clasp him about the knees, and entreat him to have pity upon you." And he vanished out of his sight.
Then Priam went to the tent, where Achilles, who had just ended his meal, sat at the table, and caught his knees and kissed his hands, yea, the very hands which had slain so many of his sons. He said: "Have pity on me, O Achilles, thinking of your own father. He is old as I am, yet it goes well with him, so long as he knows that you are alive, for he hopes to see you coming back from the land of Troy. But as for me, I am altogether miserable. Many sons have I lost, and now the best of them all is dead, and lo! I kiss the hands which slew him."
Then the heart of Achilles was moved with pity and he wept, thinking now of his own father and now of the dead Patroclus. At last he stood up from his seat and said: "How did you dare to come to my tent, old man? Surely you must have a heart of iron. But come, sit and eat and drink; for this a man must do, for all the sorrows that come upon him."
But the King said: "Ask me not to eat and drink while my son lies unburied and without honour. Rather take the gifts which I have brought, with which to ransom him."
But Achilles frowned and said: "Vex me not; I am minded to give back the body of Hector, but let me go my own way." Then Priam held his peace, for he feared to rouse the anger of Achilles.
Then Achilles went forth from the tent, and two companions with him. First they took the gifts from the wagon; only they left two cloaks and a tunic wherewith to cover the dead. And Achilles bade the women wash and anoint the body, only that they should do this apart from the tent, lest Priam should see his son, and lament aloud when the body was washed and anointed, Achilles himself lifted it in his arms, and put it on a litter, and his comrades put the litter in the wagon.
When all was finished, Achilles groaned and cried to his dead friend, saying: "Be not angry, O Patroclus, that I have given the body of Hector to his father. He has given a noble ransom, and of this you shall have your share as is meet."
Then he went back to his tent and said: "Your son, old man, is ransomed, and to-morrow shall you see him and take him back to Troy. But now let us eat and drink." And this they did.
But when this had ended, they sat and looked at each other, and Achilles wondered at King Priam, so noble was he to behold, and Priam wondered to see how strong and how fair was Achilles.
Then Priam said: "Let me sleep, Achilles, for I have not slept since my son was slain." So they made up for him a bed, but not in the tent, lest, perhaps, one of the chiefs should come in and see him.
But before he slept the King said: "Let there be a truce for nine days between the Greeks and the Trojans, that we may bury Hector."
And Achilles said: "It shall be so; I will stay the war for so long."
But when the King slept, Hermes came again to him and said: "Do you sleep among your enemies, O Priam? Awake and depart, for although Achilles has taken ransom for Hector, what would not your sons have to pay for you if the Greeks should find you in the camp?"
Then the old man rose up. And the wise herald yoked the mules to the wagon and the horses to the chariot. And they passed through the camp of the Greeks, no man knowing, and came safe to the city of Troy.
On the ninth day the King and his people made a great burying for Hector, such as had never been seen in the land of Troy.